Digital confidence has long been important for learning and teaching, allowing for trying out new ideas and bouncing back quickly when the technology doesn’t work as expected. Since March 2020 there has been a greater need than ever for those of us supporting learning and teaching with technology to do what we can to build this confidence in ourselves and our teaching colleagues.

One area where we have seen digital confidence flourish during the pandemic is in the generous sharing and peer explorations amongst the colleagues we support. We have provided opportunities to facilitate these discussions in our Teams space where we support a community of practice. We recognise the growing digital confidence of colleagues and that valuable peer sharing, so our next step is to integrate it more closely into our development workshops and also in our ‘Digital Partners’ projects where we work in partnership with colleagues.

We captured some of our thinking around ‘Locating opportunities for building digital confidence in staff’ contributing to a special issue of the Journal of Development in Higher Education, exploring ‘Compendium of Innovative Practice: Learning Development in a Time of Disruption’. In our publication we mention we have begun to think about our team’s key roles in developing digital confidence as both springboard and safety net, and we’ve now started to explore how we aim to fulfil these two roles in more detail.

The Springboard

We aim to be the team that our teaching colleagues think of when they have a new idea for a pedagogical approach involving technology, or find themselves in a new situation where learning technology is needed. We want to make our staff aware of all key considerations and options available to help them make confident decisions. To this end, we:

  • Facilitate sharing practice and ideas between colleagues, acting as a conduit for creating connections between colleagues working in the same space.
  • Offer consultation to provide a sounding board for our colleagues’ ideas, and give advice on innovative digital learning.
  • Recommend reading and research in areas which are new or unfamiliar to colleagues.
  • Run training to give teaching colleagues the opportunity to learn about or try a new tool or approach.

The Safety Net

When things go wrong in learning and teaching with technology, we aim to be the team from which our colleagues feel confident they can receive relevant and timely advice. To achieve this, we:

  • Prioritise answering support requests via our shared email inbox so that our staff get responses as soon as possible.
  • Hold drop-in sessions online twice a week in term time to allow colleagues with questions to ask and share their screens – this often leads to a quick resolution, without the colleague needing to articulate the problem in writing.
  • Include troubleshooting in our advice, drawing on our experience to highlight common issues and to suggest some ways to avoid problems before they occur.
  • Offer opportunities to test a digital approach or activity before its used ‘in the wild’, providing a safe environment for experimentation and learning without the pressure of being observed.

Reading and Research

Bancroft, R., Pearce, R., Challen, R., Jeckells, D. and Kenney, J. (2021)Locating opportunities for building digital confidence in staff’, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (22). https://doi.org/10.47408/jldhe.vi22.775.

Feldman, P. (2020) ‘Foreword from Paul Feldman’, Teaching staff digital experience insights survey: 2020 UK higher education (HE) survey findings, p3. Available at: https://repository.jisc.ac.uk/8184/1/Teaching%20DEI%20HE%20report%202020%20v1.4.pdf (Accessed: 3 June 2021).

Greener, S. and Wakefield, C. (2015) ‘Developing confidence in the use of digital tools in teaching’, Electronic Journal of e-Learning,13(4), pp.260-267. Available at: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1062118 (Accessed: 22 June 2021).

Hastings, J. (2020) ‘Covid-19 could be a catalyst for a more supportive, inclusive education’, Wonkhe, 18 June. Available at: https://wonkhe.com/blogs-sus/covid-19-could-be-a-catalyst-for-a-more-supportive-inclusive-education/ (Accessed: 1 June 2021).

Lock, J.V. (2006) ‘A new image: online communities to facilitate teacher professional development’, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education,14(4), pp. 663-678.

Newland, B. and Hanley, F. (2016) ‘Developing the digital literacies of academic staff: an institutional approach’, Research in Learning Technology, 24. https://doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v24.31501

Sandoff, M., Nilsson, K., Apelgren, B., Frisk, S. and Booth, S. (2018) ‘Reflecting on and articulating teaching experiences: academics learning to teach in practice’, International Journal of Higher Education, 7(6). https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v7n6p139.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rachel Bancroft
Head of the Learning and Teaching Support Unit (LTSU)
School of Arts & Humanities – Nottingham Trent University
rachel.bancroft@ntu.ac.uk

Rosemary Pearce
Learning Development Manager
Learning and Teaching Support Unit (LTSU)
School of Arts & Humanities – Nottingham Trent University
rosemary.pearce@ntu.ac.uk